Joe Jackson

SXSW Records

Phases and Stages

Joe Jackson

Volume 4 (Rykodisc) In the early days of New Wave, Joe Jackson was always in the shadow of his contemporaries Elvis Costello and Graham Parker. Like them, he had literate, often witty lyrics, an idiosyncratic voice, and a crack band to back him up. In the years since, Jackson's l979 debut, Look Sharp!, has become a sort of forgotten classic, with spiky guitar work by Gary Sanford, a propulsive rhythm section comprised of Graham Maby and Dave Houghton, and crystalline production. Drawing equally from punk and New Wave both, it sounds as good today as it did 20-plus years ago, which can't always be said for much of his contemporaries' work. After Look Sharp! and its slightly lesser follow-up I'm the Man, Jackson went in other directions (swing, neo-classical, pop) and more or less fell off the radar screen. Volume 4, then, isn't so much a comeback as it's a return to form, reuniting Jackson with that original band. It's a sort of stylistic buffet, ranging from the slinky wah-wah rhythm guitar of "Fairy Dust," upbeat neo-ska of "Thugs Are Us," frantic "Bright Grey," and rock stomp of "Little Bit Stupid." "Chrome" is as hard and shiny as the metal itself, and the kickoff track "Take It Like a Man" hooks the ear with a jerky beat and bassline. Volume 4 is probably too idiosyncratic to get much radio airplay, but maybe the live bonus disc with revved up versions of the old classics will. Either way, it's good to see Jackson back in the game again. (Auditorium Shores, Saturday, March 15, 6:30pm; Austin Music Hall, Saturday, March 15, midnight)

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